Sesame Street’s 46th season premiered on HBO today, with back-to-back half-hour episodes (the shortened run time, down from hourlong shows, is “is viewed as a more manageable amount of time for children to focus,” according to a recent New York Times piece). With the new episodes’ controversial move from PBS to a premium cable network comes ground-level changes, some of which are reflected in the clips above from the first two episodes—Elmo’s in his brownstone (which overlooks a bridge that resembles Philadelphia’s Walt Whitman), Oscar’s got his recycling bin, and Hooper’s Store now looks a place where you can buy a bunch of kale, Stumptown Coffee, and a stick of butter. Muppets, after all, have always been artisanal, through and through.
For contrast, here’s a screen shot from a Season 45 episode that originally aired in September 2014:
It’s not exactly a radical aesthetic revision, but this quote from Carmen Osbahr, Rosita’s puppeteer of 26 years, in the Times is telling:
It is more like things look now. When Sesame Street was created, it was kind of more like New York Bronx. Now, Oscar has a recycling can. That is amazing.
The Times says that the story lines will focus on a smaller group of characters (Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster and Rosita), while Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, and Bert and Ernie “still make appearances.” Pushing out most of the residents who’ve been there the longest, I see. Isn’t that always the way these things go?